Packing for a Disney Cruise is similar to packing for a trip to Walt Disney World. So, before we get into the details, I would suggest reading Erin Foster’s Trip Planning 101 article and downloading her handy packing checklist as an introductory course to Trip Planning 102.
Now that you have a solid idea of what to pack for a vacation to the Most Magical Place on Earth, let us get ready to head out to sea by starting with the required travel documents.
The most important items you will need when cruising will be your personal documents such as passports, state-issued birth certificates and government-issued photo ID. At the present time, you are not required to have a passport to sail on a closed loop cruise (a cruise that starts and ends in the same port), but this can change at any time. This is not a Disney Cruise Line rule; it is a government regulation. As Erin mentioned in Trip Planning 101, you can consult the US State Department’s website for the latest travel restrictions and documentation requirements.
There are pros and cons to having passports, with the biggest con being the upfront cost for a family. However, we have sailed with and without passports, and I feel it was worth the investment; plus it provides an added bit of insurance if something were to happen while you are out of the country and needed to fly home. If you already have passports, check the expiration dates to make sure they do not expire before or during your Disney Cruise.
Take a few minutes to read the cruise document section of the literature that Disney provides to ensure you have the all required documentation based on your cruise itinerary and citizenship. If you do not have the required travel documentation, you will NOT be allowed to board the ship and you will not receive a refund! No amount of pixie dust will help you if you do not have the proper documentation!
Once you have your government required travel documents in order, it is time to organize the remaining cruise documents that you printed and signed when you checked in online, or received in the mail. We keep our check-in documents in a folder in our carry on bags for easy access during the check-in process.
At check-in, you will need to present all required documentation, and proof of citizenship for each member of your family.
We are all different, so there is no possible way my family’s packing list will work for you and your family. I wish there was a universal packing list we could all use to make the pre-vacation preparations seem like a nice walk down the middle of Main Street USA on a day when the crowd level is a 1.
Instead of providing you with a Disney Cruise Packing List, I am going to provide you with a printable list with items that you may find helpful. This is the master list my wife and I started with and with each cruise items are added and subtracted.
I would like to point out a few items that are on my must pack list:
- Watch – One of the best parts of a cruise is not having regular cellular service forcing me to unplug from the real world and simply enjoy the moment. So, for the most part, my typical timepiece (iPhone)remains in the stateroom powered off. ven though you are on vacation time, is very important on a Disney Cruise, especially when you venture ashore on port days. The ship is on a time schedule, and unless you are on a Disney Cruise Line Port Adventure, the ship will not wait for if you are running late. It is also important to set your watch to ship time, which depending on your itinerary and time of year, could be different from the local time.
- Travel Documents - In addition to the identification documents above you will need to bring the Online Check-in Signature Form. You will need to have quick access to these documents when you arrive at the port.
- Travel Mugs – good news; up on the pool deck there are self- serve soda machines similar to those found at the Walt Disney World Resorts. The bad news is that the cups provided are the small ones found in the parks. However, unlike their shoreside counterparts, the beverages are free! That’s right, there are no embedded RFID mugs or barcodes to purchase; it is included with your cruise fare. There is, however, one catch; you must use the disposable cups to refill your personal travel mug. If you have never cruised before, you will quickly learn that cleanliness and preventing the spread of germs is a top concern on all cruise ships. It may seem like you are wasting a cup, but you are doing your part to keep everyone from getting sick.
- Highlighters – Each evening, a Personal Navigator will be delivered to your stateroom. The Personal Navigator is essentially the schedule of events and activities available for the following day. Before we turn in for the night, we look over the schedule and highlight the activities we would like to do the next day. If your family plans to do separate activities, use a different color highlighter for each person. This way, you can have a master schedule to keep track of the kids and each other.
- Sun Protection – I cannot stress this enough – bring extra sunscreen. You are not going to enjoy your vacation once you have a sunburn. Plus, if you run out, it is one of those items that is not cheap to replace onboard. Also, be sure to reapply often.
- Cash – Keep in mind that you do not need cash on the ship, but it does come in handy while venturing ashore paying for cabs, or grabbing something to eat at a local restaurant. We try to have a decent amount of smaller bills available for easy tipping.
- Sweater – I tend to find the air conditioning a little too much for my liking. If you are like me, and keep your AC set to 80 degrees, then you may want to pack a sweater. Trust me on this, I’ve stopped at the gift shop on the way from dinner to the show to buy a sweater on more than one occasion.
- Medications – You will be leaving the country, and while there is a medical center onboard, it is in your best interest to bring more than you need, especially if you are taking prescription medication.
- Sea Sickness Aids – This would normally fall under medications, but I did not want it to go unnoticed. We usually do not have any issues with sea sickness, but that does not mean it has never happened. We pack Sea-Bands for our daughter and have her wear them on the first night as preventative measure. By the way, these Sea-Bands are also effective for combatting motion sickness in the car.
- Rain coat/Poncho - living in Florida you get accustomed to the rain, but it is never fun to be soaked. Our raincoats live in our car for a reason, and I make sure they get put in our luggage when we cruise. On more than one occasion, we have encountered inclement weather during Port Adventures in the Caribbean, as well as rain upon returning to Port Canaveral. Depending on your rain coat, it can also double as a light jacket/windbreaker for times when it is cooler on the open decks.
- Trash bags – In addition to rain coats, I pack a large trash bags in my camera bag, and any other bag we may take out on an excursion. In the event we are caught in a down pour, we can quickly and easily protect our bags from getting soaked!
- Alcoholic Beverages – One of the great things about Disney Cruise Line is that you can carry on your own alcohol to consume in your stateroom. Disney does require you to carry-on your beverages to prevent accidental damage to other guests’ luggage if a bottle breaks. If you choose to bring a bottle of wine to dinner, just keep in mind a corking fee will be charged.
- Surge Protector – If you are like me, a surge protector is a necessity to charge multiple camera batteries, computer, and a slew other electronic devices simultaneously. I picked up a small travel surge protector that works great when traveling.
- Thank You Cards – instead of just using the envelopes provided, we place the gratuity tickets in with a thank you card which my wife adds a personal note to each person. On longer cruises, you can really become close with your serving team and stateroom host/hostess. In a way, they almost become an extended family member.
- Return Address Labels – On the last night of your cruise, you will receive luggage tags in your stateroom to affix to your bags before you set your luggage outside your stateroom. Instead of writing your name and address on each tag, you can just stick on a return address label.
- Air Freshener – I really do not need to explain this one; just grab a small travel size spray.
I wish a had a Fairy Godmother that could say those magical words and all my clothes would be packed; but that is not the case. In fact, this is the least desirable part of my pre-cruise planning. Luckily, my wife devised an excellent worksheet she uses to plan what we will need for each day of our cruise. Click here to download a copy of our clothes packing worksheet. This worksheet will accommodate up to a seven-night cruise. Start by entering the scheduled ports of call each day. Next, note any planned excursions and dinning reservations at Palo or Remy. Now, is the fun part, planning what you will wear each day.
Packing for fun in the sun is one thing, but you also need to consider what you will be wearing to dinner and the shows. Dinner attire is usually cruise casual, meaning no
shorts, swimwear or tank tops. (Effective 8/5/13, shorts are now permitted on Cruise Casual nights.) Depending on your cruise, you may even have Semi-Formal and Formal evenings. If you plan have dinner at the adult-only restaurants (Palo and Remy), you will need to dress more formally than you would at the rotational restaurants. There is one unique exception to the dress attire, and that is Pirate Night, where Disney encourages everyone to dress up in their best pirate costumes. Pirate night is for everyone; not just the kids!
Once you have your stuff ready to pack into your suitcase, consult Disney Cruise Line’s list of prohibited items. If found, these items will be confiscated by security and returned at the end of your cruise.
Pack A Carry On
Last, but not least, plan what you will pack in a carry on bag carefully. You should take everything you and your family members may need on embarkation day. First and foremost, make sure you have all your travel documents and identification with you, and easily accessible. You will need these documents immediately upon arrival to Port Canaveral. While your staterooms will be ready at 1:30 PM, your luggage will arrive piece by piece up to 5:00 PM. If you plan to be onboard earlier in the day and want to swim or just enjoy the pool deck, make sure you pack swim suits and sun protection in your carry-on. Additionally, you should keep all your important documentation and medications with you to avoid any issues while you are waiting for your luggage to be delivered to your stateroom.
I hope you can use the tips from Trip Planning 101 and 102 to create a customized packing list for your next land and sea vacation. Remember to take your final packing list with you so that you can make notes during your cruise. While it is fresh in your head, update your customized packing list so you will have an easier time packing for your next Disney Cruise vacation.
Do you have questions about Disney Cruise Line? Let us know in the comments and we will to answer cover your questions in future articles. In the mean time, if you are looking for some additional cruise line information check out DisneyCruiseLineBlog.com were I cover everything from the latest in Disney Cruise Line news to the weather.